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I'm only posting out of curiosity. But recently I've begun to wonder what you would call a shortening of a word that only sounds correct when spoken, and the pronunciation cannot be inferred from its spelling because the pronunciation is based on “phantom" letters”.

Offhand, I could only think of the example below. I'll add more if I remember them.

For example:

In England, someone might order a Veg Meal. Veg is pronounced /vɛdʒ/ but words ending in g have a guh sound. However, Veg is pronounced as if the egtable part was still there.

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There's also syncing or synching. –  Peter Shor Mar 25 '13 at 14:24
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And the contraction of microphone is in my trade usually spelled <mic>, which looks like it should be pronounced /mɪk/. –  StoneyB Mar 25 '13 at 14:27
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You're confusing spelling (which does not represent pronunciation) and pronunciation (which does not give a shit about spelling). Contractions happen in speech, and the word to contract is /'vɛdʒtəbəl/. How would you clip it? An English speaker would just take off the /təbəl/ part, leaving only /vɛdʒ/. Very simple, no? The fact that the /dʒ/ used to be pronounced /ɡ/ 2000 years ago in a different language has very little effect on living people's speech habits. –  John Lawler Mar 25 '13 at 15:20
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The technical term for words whose "pronunciation cannot be inferred from [their] spelling[s]" is English words. –  StoneyB Mar 25 '13 at 16:21
    
You want some Worcestershire sauce with that? –  mplungjan Mar 25 '13 at 17:28

1 Answer 1

A contraction by any other name would sound as sweet. (Sorry, Shakespeare.)

Technically, is a contraction without an apostrophe really a contraction? Frankly, I do not know. Maybe it could be called a contracted contraction. Sometimes at the heart of the issue is verbal laziness. I guess it's just easier to say (and write) things in contracted form, not to mention the "tons" [ironic exaggeration] of time we save in cutting down on the number of letters or syllables in our writings and utterances!

Taking notes in law class for me can be quite frustrating, so I've come up with my own contractions/shorthand to streamline the process. L and Ls are lawyer and lawyers; C or Cs are client and clients; AA and AAs, administrative agency or agencies; liab is liability; lit is litigation; etc. I even use the symbol for pi for plaintiff and a triangle for defendant. Would I pronounce these contractions? No.

Being unable to speak any language besides English, I have no basis for comparing English to any other languages. I have a feeling, however, they too have their ways of contracting words, both short and long, difficult-to-pronounce and not-so-difficult to pronounce. I heard a fellow student in law say to me the other day: "Will I see you in Crim Law tomorrow?" Why did she shorten the word criminal to crim? I don't know, but I did understand she was talking about a course in Criminal Law.

On the other hand, we often contract real tongue twisters, and for good reason. Sometimes we run into problems there, too. Example: ob gyn, which Americans pronounce Oh Bee Gee Why En! Why not ob gine (with a hard G)? Who knows. As John Lawler pointed out, spelling doesn't give a s**t about pronunciation. The former pronunciation certainly "beats" saying obstetrician/gynecologist, however!

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